It’s normally the case that when you buy your first guitar, they throw in a basic nylon strap that will more or less adequately suspend a guitar from your shoulder. This is especially true if your first guitar is part of a beginner kit. These basic straps are usually rough on the edges, with plastic or even cardboard ends. They’ll work just fine, but it won’t be particularly comfortable nor will it stand up to any kind of abuse.
Much like picks and gig bags, straps aren’t exactly the sexy part of guitar ownership. The focus will, of course, still be on the guitar itself and ideally on your playing upon it. Unlike either of those items, though, the strap will be seen constantly, so it’s a good opportunity to express yourself a little.
Going out of your way to choose a strap means it’ll be more comfortable, too. When you first start playing, you’ll probably be sitting a lot and won’t notice the difference a good strap can make. As you start practicing and performing with a band, it’ll pretty quickly become apparent whether you can live with that cheap starter strap.
I play a very weird, very heavy guitar. It outweighs at least one early 2000s Les Paul I know, coming in at nearly ten pounds, in part thanks to the addition of a solid oak block that fills in a gap where a Floyd Rose-style bridge used to be. I’ve had my share of straps over the years, including extra wide ones, dirt cheap ones, and even padded ones.
I’ve found that some of the prettiest straps out there are some of the least comfortable and the opposite is true, too. As with anything, balancing the aesthetics with function will give you the best experience. If you have a light guitar and a strong back, the options are pretty much wide open.
Happily, a good strap doesn’t need to be expensive. Like anything, the sky is pretty much the limit in terms of price, but there are lots of solid options out there along the cost spectrum. You want something that won’t stretch very much over time, as well as something with durable ends. It’s especially important that the ends don’t stretch, since that’s where the abuse takes place. There are a few different options for materials and an endless font of designs, so there’s really no reason you can’t find something that suits you specifically.
Despite their ubiquity, you won’t see the basic Planet Waves and Ernie Ball polypropylene straps on this list. They’re cheap and cheerful, but not much of an upgrade from the cheap straps you might find in a beginner kit, so we’ve left them out. If that’s all you need, godspeed. They’ve certainly proven their worth. You also won’t see the leather lightning bolt strap on here, so take it easy, Rivers. We’re looking for straps with a little something extra to offer.
While you’re pondering strap options, I’ll take this opportunity to strongly encourage you to get some strap locks. Whether you opt for the super-simple washer-type (adapted from the Grolsch beer bottle washers), the Ernie Ball Super Locks, or the Schaller Security strap locks, they provide relatively cheap insurance against drops. With a ten pound guitar, you can bet I’m using the Schallers, but any of them will do the trick. Also, if you play acoustic, most of these will come with a length of string to tie it at the headstock. You can upgrade this with something like the Cavalry Straps Leather Acoustic Guitar Strap Button for improved style and function.
Blending sharp looks with an important function, here are the top ten best cool guitar straps.
1. Dunlop D3809BK Solid Black Strap
If you don’t have a lot to spend but still want to upgrade from those basic straps, consider this option from Dunlop. It’s such a simple, even obvious improvement, but the rolled Comfort Edge makes a big difference for wearability. Those thin, cheap straps dig into your neck and shoulder pretty quickly. I always found the edges annoying, and liked the few of these I owned. I eventually moved on from these purely because of the styling, but they do a pretty good job of answering the major criticism of the cheap ones. The leather ends retain their shape well over time. These are two inches wide, adjustable between 38 and 65 inches long.
Pro: Comfort Edge sides provide superior comfort to standard polypropylene straps.
Con: Not much in the way of unique designs, unless you like flames.
Price: $9.81 (10 percent off MSRP)
2. Souldier Custom USA Handmade Electric Guitar Strap
Handmade in Chicago, Souldier straps are made to stand the test of time. Design cues from vintage-style straps, usually incorporating floral and geometric patterns in a vaguely psychedelic theme. The material itself is recycled seatbelt material, which means that they’re absurdly long-wearing. The ends are double-ply, hand-cut leather and are covered by a lifetime warranty. They come in solid colors, as well as versions with colored leather ends. These are two inches wide, adjustable between 30 and 60 inches long.
Pro: Extremely high quality, handmade strap in a wide variety of patterns.
Con: Somewhat pricey, depending on the specific strap.
Price: Varies, starting around $20 and up
3. Kliq AirCell Guitar Strap
If you have either a bad back or a truly beastly guitar, you’ll want to look into something like this. Made from a combination of neoprene and Lyrca, these give a bit more than other materials without being bouncy and stretching out of place. As you can probably tell, they took it a step further by adding “AirCell technology”, which are padded pockets of air to help distribute the weight better.
If you sweat a lot, you’ll appreciate the material’s ability to wick moisture away, as well as the smooth feeling against your skin. It’s also three inches wide, reducing the cut of narrower straps. Three lengths are available to suit all instruments: Long (49 to 61 inches), Regular (46 to 56 inches), and Short (38 to 44 inches).
Pro: Enhanced padding and extra width will distribute the weight of even the heaviest guitars.
Con: Only comes in black and depending on how you adjust it, the air cells may not sit in the optimal place for all players.
Price: $34.95 (41 percent off MSRP)
4. Levy’s Leathers MSS1-BLK Veg Tan Leather Guitar Strap
You had to know this was coming. Levy’s is a monster of the guitar strap game, producing a wide range of quality options. Among their best has to be this fine model. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand those straps with the sheepskin pads. Sure, they’re padded, but they’re also super hot and tend not to move as easily as I’d like. Better for the padding to be sewn into the strap as it is on these.
Combined with the garment-grade leather, the padding is wonderfully comfortable and soft. Available in the acoustic or burst complementary colors of Black, Brown, Burgundy, Cranberry, Dark Brown, Natural, Russet, and Walnut. These are 2.5 inches wide, adjustable between 38 and 53 inches long.
Pro: Supremely comfortable padded leather strap.
Con: On the expensive side, definitely not cruelty-free.
Price: $56.11 to $82.11
5. Planet Waves Planet Lock Leather Guitar Strap
As I advocated in the intro, you really should consider strap locks. Not just so you can do rockstar things like throw it around your body mid-solo, but also that. In fact, it’s usually the mundane things that cause your strap to fall off, like gingerly handing it to someone across the practice space. When it’s on your body, the tension usually keeps it in place, but otherwise you’re at some risk of it falling off. This strap comes with locks integrated into it. Simply release the side pin and you can pop the lock off your existing strap button.
If the leather isn’t for you, these also come in polypropylene versions. These are two inches wide, adjustable between 35 and 59.5 inches long.
Pro: Built-in strap locks without the need to change hardware on your guitar.
Con: Just okay leather with no added padding.
Price: $26.27 (18 percent off MSRP)
6. Mono GS1 Betty Guitar Strap
We naturally included a Mono option on our guitar cases post, but they also make a similarly excellent strap. Memory foam lies within the articulated padded segments, held together as one unit with neoprene. This allows for maximal airflow and ease of movement. These are cruelty-free, with the ends being made of Hypalon rather than leather. There’s a convenient hidden pick pocket, as well.
These are three inches wide and come in two sizes: Short, adjustable between 40 and 46 inches and Long, adjustable between 47 and 59 inches long.
Pro: Memory foam padding and neoprene make this a very comfortable option.
Con: Expensive as non-leather options go and may slide too much for some people.
7. Neotech 8301052 Mega Strap
Here’s another option that relies on neoprene for breathability and that small amount of stretch to lessen the load. This one takes it one step further by tapering the padded section, expanding to four inches across at the widest point. I’ve had straps that were this wide the entire length and they were really uncomfortable, so I appreciate the combination of the wider strap for weight distribution and narrower ends to save the chafing on my neck. Like the Mono above, memory foam is used for padding for improved comfort. These come in five sizes:
- Short: 32 to 37 inches long
- Regular: 36 to 45 inches long
- Midsize: 40 to 50 inches long
- Long: 44 to 56 inches long
- Banjo: 52 to 61 inches long
Pro: Wider, tapered strap distributes weight well.
Con: Only comes in black.
Price: $28.99 to $39.75
8. Moxie & Oliver Leather Guitar Straps
If you want something truly unique, consider these lovely straps made from full-grain leather. With imagery that focuses on earthtones and nature themes, these are subtle works of art handmade in the U.S. You can even get their strap kit, which is only $45 and allows you to create your own design. All of them measure 2.5 inches wide, adjustable between 38 and 52 inches long. Examples of straps on offer in addition to the one pictured above include:
Pro: Beautiful handmade art on high-end, full-grain leather.
Con: Expensive with no additional functionality.
Price: Varies, starting around $115
9. DiMarzio Steve Vai ClipLock Guitar Strap
Developed with the help of guitar god Steve Vai, these DiMarzio straps utilize a novel strap lock system. By fastening the clip ends to your guitar, you can quickly change straps just by releasing the clip mechanism. You can buy extra fasteners and hardware separately so you only need one strap for all your guitars.
The design pictured above is the Steve Vai Blue Universe signature, and his line also includes the Green Universe and Blue Cherry Universe. If you prefer, you can also get them in solid colors. These are two inches wide, adjustable between 43.5 to 63.5 inches long.
Pro: Secure, easy to use strap lock system.
Con: Requires modifying your guitar.
10. Couch Racer X Guitar Straps
Admittedly, it’s tough to choose amongst the different Couch lines. Their reclaimed Vintage Auto straps are pretty cool, and I personally use one of their Seatbelt straps on my main guitar. But I think the Racer X line has the broadest appeal, with the simple but stylish single stripe in an array of color combinations.
These are all made from reclaimed vinyl, hand stitched with a soft, comfortable edge. I can attest from my experience with the Seatbelt strap that the vinyl ends are ultra-tough and will certainly put up with several years of constant abuse. Fiberglass reinforced padding completes the package. Tough to go wrong with anything from this company.
Pro: Cruelty-free, recycled materials in a variety of styles and colors.
Con: If using Schaller strap locks, you might struggle to get them to work with the ends.
Price: $36 to $44
11. Native Sons Guitar Straps
Our last pick are these elegant straps made by hand in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Most of the patterns have a rich, detailed look reminiscent of textiles from bygone eras, with others influenced by themes local to the American Southwest. The ends are made of very durable leather, the color of which can be chosen at checkout. You can also specify a nylon or a hemp backing depending on what you prefer.
The company was kind enough to furnish me with a strap in The Rustler pattern, and it very nearly unseated my beloved Couch strap. It ultimately ended up on my backup guitar only because it fit the color theme better, but I’ve been impressed by the craftsmanship and durability. You’ll certainly have to pay to own one of these, but it may just well be worth it.
Pro: Beautiful, lightly customized handmade straps in unique styles.
Price: $60 and up